Reaching such exotic lands is never easy; Pindar cautioned:
Along with Thule, Hyperborea was one of several terrae incognitae to the Greeks and Romans, where Pliny and Herodotus, as well as Virgil and Cicero, reported that people lived to the age of one thousand and enjoyed lives of complete happiness. According to Herodotus (4.13), Aristeas had written a hexameter poem (now lost) about a journey to the Issedones. Beyond these lived the one-eyed Arimaspians, further on there were gold-guarding griffins, and beyond these the Hyperboreans. Hesiod mentioned the Hyperboreans, Herodotus reported, "and Homer also in the Epigoni, if that be really a work of his". Also, the sun was supposed to rise and set only once a year in Hyperborea, which would place it at the North Pole.
In maps based on reference points and descriptions given by Strabo, Hyperborea, shown variously as a peninsula or island, is located beyond France and has a greater latitudinal than longitudinal extent. Other descriptions put it in the general area of the Ural Mountains.
As with other legends of this sort, selected details can be reconciled with modern knowledge. Above the Arctic Circle, from the time of the vernal equinox to the time of the autumnal equinox, the sun can shine for twenty-four hours a day; at the extremes (that is, the Poles), it rises and sets only once a year, possibly leading to the erroneous conclusion that a "day" for such persons is a year long, and therefore that living a thousand days would be the same as living a thousand years.
Since Herodotus places the Hyperboreans beyond the Massagetae and Issedones, both Central Asian peoples, it appears that his Hyperboreans may have lived in Siberia. Heracles sought the golden-antlered hind of Artemis in Hyperborea. As the reindeer is the only deer species of which females bear antlers, this would suggest an arctic or subarctic region. Following J.D.P. Bolton's location of the Issedones on the south-western slopes of the Altay mountains, Carl P.Ruck places Hyperborea beyond the Dzungarian Gate into northern Xinjiang, noting that the Hyperboreans were probably Chinese. Hecataeus of Abdera, however, clearly places the Hyperboreans in the British Isles.
Avram Davidson, in an essay in his book Adventures in Unhistory: Conjectures on the Factual Foundations of Several Ancient Legends, proposed the theory that Hyperborea was derived from a logical (though erroneous) explanation by the Greeks for the fact that embedded inside the amber arriving in their cities by trade with northern, cold countries were insects which obviously originated in a warm climate.
Not aware of the explanation offered by modern science (i.e. that these insects had lived in times when the climate of northern Europe was much warmer, their bodies preserved unchanged in the amber) the Greeks came up with the idea that north countries being cold was due to the cold breath of Boreas, the North Wind. Therefore, should one be able to get beyond him (Hyperborea literally means "beyond Boreas") one would find a warm and sunny land.
The term "Hyperborean" sees some self-consciously jocular contemporary use to refer to any who live in a cold climate. Under the Library of Congress classification system, the letter subclass PM includes "Hyperborean Languages", a catch-all category that refers to all the linguistically unrelated languages of peoples living in Arctic regions, such as the Inuit.
H.P. Blavatsky, Rene Guenon and Julius Evola all shared the belief in the Hyperborean, polar origins of mankind and a subsequent solidification and devolution (cf. ). According to these esoterists, Hyperborea was the Golden Age polar center of civilization and spirituality; and Humankind does not rise from the ape, but progressively physicalizes into the apelike condition as it strays physically and spiritually from its mystical otherworldly homeland in the Far North, succumbing to the demonic energies of the South Pole, the greatest point of materialization (see Joscelyn Godwin, Arktos: The Polar Myth).